Epistemic Agency and Metacognition: an Externalist View
Proust (Joelle)
Source: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 2 June 2008
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Today's epistemologists debate about the respective roles of evidence and of subjective responsibility in a definition of knowledge.
  2. It is often assumed that agents can be held responsible for the way they control their processes of knowledge acquisition. An ability to control the process through which a given belief is formed has been presented as a necessary condition for an agent being possibly justified, rather than simply entitled to form that belief.
  3. The question of knowing what is involved in the control of one's mental agency, however, is rarely if ever addressed. Is the control of one's perception, memory, reasoning, relying on something like introspective capacities? Or does is rely on external constraints ?
  4. A first aim of this article is to explore these questions. The control of one's mental agency encompasses two kinds of reflective, evaluative operations, which together constitute metacognition. Self-probing predicts whether one has the cognitive resources needed for the success of some specific mental task at hand. Post-evaluating appreciates retrospectively whether the mental property that is attained as a result of a mental action conforms to the norm of adequacy for that action (section I).
  5. A second aim is to examine whether recognizing the contribution of epistemic feelings to metacognitive interventions in mental agency favors an internalist type of epistemic status for self-knowledge acquisition (section II).
  6. Section III provides arguments for rejecting internalism about metacognition; it introduces a "brain-in-the-lab" thought experiment1 to fuel externalist intuitions about metacognition; it discusses two possible types of strategies in favor of an externalist conception of metacognitive entitlement, respectively based on evolutionary considerations and on learning.
  7. Section IV examines a generalization of the thought experiment2 to twin-cases, and discusses the merit of a third externalist strategy, based on dynamic-coupling properties constituting the viability core of a mental task.

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